Results tagged ‘ Dick Vitale ’

Rays Photo Homage to Past Celebrity and Musical Guests


It is one of those photo collages that takes your breathe away when you first see it. Basically the magnitude of the talent and faces that have crossed within the confines of Tropicana Field is amazing. Sure we might not have Kate Hudson in our stands every night, but she was here when the New York Yankees touched down within Tampa Bay for a few games. And people like John Cusack and author Stephen King have also been known to try and sneak in a Rays game without a lot of attention.

But the photo collage on the concourse wall right behind the Home Plate 102-104 sections of seating in Tropicana Field shows just how much music, motion picture stars and great moments we have endured over the last few seasons. From the moment the Rays concluded their November 2007 unveiling of their new logo and uniforms, to the upcoming Hess Express/Rays Saturday Night Concert Series featuring John Fogerty, the team has shown both talent on the field, as well as on the Concert stage. And the list of artists featured on the wall collage is impressive indeed.


There are currently 28 photo cut and pasted upon this collage section featuring the artists and actors who have made the Rays part of their baseball family. And it all began in November 2007 with the free concert to Rays fans who attended the Rays logo and uniform fashion extravaganza as actor/musician Kevin Costner and his band Modern West brought their own special spin to the festivities. But he was only the beginning. Since that time fellow actors/comedian Paul Rieser ( Mad About You), Chris Rock, Former SNL star/ Impressionist Darrell Hammond, Barry Williams (Greg Brady) last but definitely not least, Bill Murray who we all loved as Carl the Groundskeeper in “Caddyshack” and is a minor league baseball part owner.


But there are also local Florida athletes or players who have trained in St. Petersburg in the past who are immortalized on the concourse wall such as former Tampa Bay Buc running back Mike Alstott, Baseball Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr., Ozzie “The Wizard of Oz” Smith and another Oriole great Jim Palmer. The collage also includes NFL Hall of Famer and Tampa Bay Buc legend Lee Roy Selmon , WWE past Champion John Cena and Orlando Magic Center/Power Forward Dwight Howard. Broadcasting and announcing legends both National and Internationally also grace the collage with the addition of ESPN Basketball Guru and 2004 Inductee to the Pepsi Rays Fan Wall of Fame Dick Vitale and the immortal Boxing/Wrestling announcer Michael ” Let’s get ready to Rumble” Buffer.

But also several members of this new display in Tropicana Field either performed the National Anthem or “God Bless America” such as former American Idol David Archuletta, the Backstreet Boys, and Green Day. But most of the rest of the artists posted upon the wall have performed in the Rays popular Saturday Night Concert Series over the last few seasons. Groups such as 3-Doors Down, Pat Benatar, Daughtry, L L Cool J, Flo Rida, Ludacris, and legendary groups the B-52’s and M C Hammer. Who reminded us “When the Devil went out ( of the team name), the Wins came in!”.


Country artists Big & Rich with Cowboy Troy and Trace Adkins also have provided hours of great entertainment to the crowds of Rays fans attending the game, plus who danced in the aisles and landing around Tropicana Field during their music sets. And do not forget there is still some space upon that wall collage that might include this year’s artists, John Fogerty (April 24th), ZZ Top (May 1st), Nelly (May 15th), Hall & Oates (May 29th), the Go-Go’s /Farewell Tour (July 10th), Train (August 14th), Adam Lambert and Orianthi (Sept. 18th), Country Star Dierks Bentley (Sept. 25th) and two other concerts artists not yet announced on June 12th and June 26th.

Talent galore has graced both the field and the stages of Tropicana Field in the past, and the future looks even brighter as the Rays thrust again towards the top of the American League East. This photo collage is just a small sampling of the stars and the people within the entertainment field who have either sat within the main bowl of Tropicana Field, or in the Suites and attended Rays games in the past.


The collage is just a great way for the Rays fans to gather and remember and relive these great acts and people as they became members of the Rays lore. So sometimes in the future be sure to wander up the main concourse just to the east of the Rays main elevator system and have your own great flashbacks into these performances or sightings of the great people who also have adorn Rays jerseys and attended games. Some times it is great to look at the past so that we can see just how far we really have traveled since the ultimate changes made in 2007 to the Rays legend, and the way we will remember our moments within Tropicana Field.


Could Maddon have planned this Mistake?



I have to say that the lineup card fiasco yesterday stirred up its own pot of controversy as we sat there in the stands for almost 15 minutes not knowing what was going on at home plate. We could see Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge constantly bickering and arguing a fact from just beyond Dick Vitale’s seat, but even the loud and proud Vitale probably could not have figured this fiasco out in less time. It is not the intention of the Tampa Bay Rays to try and shore up their defense by putting both Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist at the same position.

But you do have to give it to the Cleveland bench for not saying a thing before the Rays took their first time out in the field to solidify Wedge’s argument that Longoria should be tossed off the lineup card in the 3-hole.  It was a measure of stealth that they let the Rays get their 3 outs then protest the line-up card to basically make this an old school National League versus American League game. By showing the error to the umpire crew the Indians did in fact get Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine put into that third spot for the ballgame. But little did they know that Sonnanstine was a .400 hitter and could stroke the ball with authority. Because the Rays play basically a NL-type game with a designated hitter most nights, the loss of Longoria did not take a huge bite out of the Rays scoring machine.

You would have thought it would cause all kinds of havoc and make for a very one-sided contest, but in reality, it boosted the Rays bench confidence in their team, and also got the other Rays pitchers to want to also take a few hacks at the plate. One television camera even caught Rays starter Scott Kazmir taping up his bat on the bench maybe hoping for a pinch-hitter role in the game. But what soon seemed like a huge injustice to the Rays turned into a plus as Sonnanstine put down an incredible bunt to get a fielder’s choice when the Indians instead went to second with the throw to get the speedy Carl Crawford. But later in the contest, Sonnanstine would make the Indians pay with a nice stroke to leftfield that had Ryan Garko doing circles out there in left field.

But for some reason, the post-game interview with Rays Manager Joe Maddon saw him take complete blame for the line-up blunder. He said it was basically his signature and that he was responsible for the error and that no one else’s fingerprints are on the decision to submit the wrong lineup card before the game. Okay, I am not a huge fan of conspiracy theories or even the mixture of intelligence and character building in reference to his team. But if I was, then Maddon is a true genius. For some odd reason I see his smiling face not at all too upset on the reversal of losing Longoria, who even got up off the bench and penciled in Sonnanstine’s name himself before putting on a sweat top and sitting on the bench.


How much of a true warrior statistician would you be if you pulled the wool over the eyes of not only your team, but the opposition.  I truly think that Sun Tzu would be proud of Maddon right now. I think he meant to do that yesterday. For some odd reason it makes sense that starting on Friday, his pitchers would again be taking the plate in Inter League contests against the Florida Marlins. Here we had the best hitting pitcher on the Rays having to take hacks today against a guy making his MLB debut.  It doesn’t take a wise man to see that the simple fact of Sonnanstine hitting can give the Indians a false set of confidence in at least one quick out in an inning.

It also doesn’t seem too far fetched to think of Maddon as using this “error” as a tool to motivate his pitchers who are now chomping at the bit to get time at the plate. That makes for more focused Batting Practice swings by the pitching staff, plus a bit of covert action by showing the pitchers’ one of their own going 1 for 3 with an RBI in Sundays win. I can see Maddon sitting in his office trying to devise his own “Trojan Horse” situation to boost not only the confidence of his pitching staff, but for his players to believe again in 2009. After the rough start to the season, and the last two nights emotional and building confidence levels, this move could make them take on a army of Transformers.

I sat down near the Bullpen and even joked about Joe Nelson and Dan Wheeler getting some hacks today at the plate. But in the back of my mind, I knew that Sonnanstine might get three chances, and by then it would be the seventh inning or beyond and the bench could be put into action. The last few days I have seen several members of this pitching staff take to the batting cages, and some of them have more focus than last season. So if Maddon did indeed do this to instill a sense of magic and power to his pitchers’ they got the message loud and clear. For the pure fact that he is the last one to see that lineup card before he gives it to either Dave Martinez or Tom Foley to submit, you have to think they also check it out while walking out there.

But for the fact that no one questioned it before the middle of the first inning is in itself a bold move by both benches. It could have been decided that Longoria’s name not being put under the “DH” moniker was just a clerical error and he would have been inserted anyway. But the umpire crew did its job and made the right decision. With a bit of luck, and skill it worked perfectly into the Rays favor. This is not to mean that Pat Burrell has been replaced by a pitcher, but it is a great thing to know that the pitchers want to contribute at the plate too now. That can lead to all sorts of plays and chances for this team to get additional bats in the lineup in the coming Inter League games.

I can truly see the mind of Joe Maddon cooking up this scenario and even making alternative plans in his head if it did not work well. That is why I like Maddon. He is one of those managers that actually manages during the game. Situational hitting, double steals and also watching for routine flaws in the other team is his style of play. Maddon is a great lover of the strategies and moves of the game. I am really thinking he just played the best joke on all of us, and only himself and maybe his Coaching staff know the truth in this matter.

Rienhold Matay / AP

So for now, the Rays as a “NL” team are 1-0 in the season. We will find out just how good this play of events evolves when on Friday night the pitchers again take to the plate in Miami.  Not to truly say that the Rays skipper did do it on purpose, but if he did, it would be one of the best coaching moves to motivate a sector of your team since the bat sc
ene in “Bull Durham”. Sonnanstine is now in the history books, and the Rays turned a visual mistake into a confidence-boosting exercise. Sounds just like something Maddon would cook up in the kitchen too.




Rays Fan “Love” Fest set for Feb 14th



Just got the official word from the Rays that the 2009 Fan Fest will be held on Saturday, February 14th from 11 – 6 p.m.  This is the same day that the pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Port Charlotte for Spring Training. I am getting the distinct feeling that the team will actually be reporting to Tropicana Field, then be bused or take their personal modes of transportation down to the new Spring Training site later that day.

So here we are within 17 days of  seeing our boys of summer again on the signing stages within the field of Tropicana Field. It has been a long off season, but thank goodness it is getting shorter every day. Again we can mingle and chat with fellow Rays fans about the upcoming season, the team’s trades and signings since October 2007, and most of all bask in the glow of the 2008 American League champion Tampa Bay Rays.




As usual, there will be a Rays/Pepsi Fan Wall of Fame induction ceremony in which the 12th class of members will be presented their official team jerseys and trophies starting at 12 p.m. that day.  I know first-hand the honor and the excitement that comes with getting a nod to be on the Wall of Fame. I was inducted in 2004 along with ESPN personality and Rays Season Ticket holder Dick Vitale. I still have the sign from his seat that day and I will be seeking you out in 2009 to sign it finally.

If you have never been to a Rays Fan Fest, it is a free event for all ages and will feature events and a live silent auction of Rays collectibles. Also, you will be able to take your picture in the Rays  home dugout and go on a locker room tour to see how beautiful the Rays home locker rooms are, and get a glimpse into Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s office. Do not forget to look on the window of Rays Clubhouse Manager, Chris Westmoreland’s office for photos and great events featuring our Rays.




There will be events for the kids as usual, like the home run derby event and the batting cages. Also there will be a timed  90 foot run to see how you stack up with your friends running the base paths like the team. But the event that everyone comes out to, is the player signings. At select times, the Rays will gather in four clusters of signing area to meet and greet the fans for 2009. Among the most anticipated signers is former Phillie Pat Burrell, who the Rays signed in the off season. But as usual, you will have players and coaches from both the major and minor league squad here for sign items for you………the fans.




Every year the event seems to get better and better. Also on tap will be giveaways from the Florida Sports Network ( FSN) and local radio stations, including the Rays new flagship station for game broadcasts, 620 WDAE, the Sports Animal.  Progress Energy and several other sponsors of the team will also be on hand to also provide information and exciting gifts for selected fans.  Behind the baseball diamond will be baseball collections and also the second annual Metro PCS event where you can get an actual Rays player to chat on your phone to someone. There event was so popular last year that the line was so long some people did not get to partake in the event.


And as usual, the Rays Sales teams will out in force to help you with selection of Season Tickets, or oyher ticket packages at the event. If you are thinking of buying tickets, but are not sure, the Rays will again be offering the 20 game vouchers that can be used throughout the season for 20 selected games of your choice. This is a great option for the fan that doesn’t know when he might have time ti attend, but wants to support the team.  Multi-colored sheets will be located on seats throughout the stadium for fans to have a gander at the full season or partial season prices for that section. Sales people will be happy to chat with you about any section of the stadium for the upcoming season.




Also on hand on the field will be the 2008 American League trophy won by the team after they defeated the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 to earn the right to play in the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. There has been word that people will be able to take pictures of the trophy, but no confirmation of personal photos or standing with the award.


But as usual, the event is to celebrate a new season and a renewed vigor about our hometown Tampa Bay Rays. I hope you can attend, and I look forward to meeting some of you there to celebrate and chat about the Rays. 



Yankees win Shootout in the 10th


Yankees 2, Rays 1




The worst thing about not having a home game right now is not being able to remind the Tampa Bay Rays fans that daily we need to text or vote online for Evan Longoria to get into the 2008 All-Star game. With our 2 games in New York, and then onto Cleveland, the Rays are missing that special push that we could do at home for Longoria.




The New York Yankees distributed fake black mustache’s to the masses’ at the stadium in an effort to get them to vote for Jason Giambi for the game. It was quite a sight seeing over 53,552 fans wearing those cheesy mustaches. But it gave the fans a visual reminder that Giambi needs help to get into the contest.

The Rays did a small segment where ESPN Basketball Guru, Dick Vitale encouraged the Rays fans watching to continue voting for Longoria. It was a great little segment, that along with the 5 e-mails I have on the issue, surely has Rays fans noticing the teams’ push for Longoria to make the squad.  A small side note,  Dick Vitale was voted onto the Pepsi/Rays Wall of Fame in 2004, but could not attend due to the Duke/North Carolina game. I still have your seat sign Dick whenever you want it………..Swish baby, nothing but net!!!



Edwin Jackson pitched a great game for the Rays. This season, with every start you see more and more control exhibited by Jackson on the mound. His fastball control and off-speed pitches are miles in front of what they were last season for the Rays.

Jackson pitched 6.1 innings of 6-hit, 1-run ball for the Rays. It was one of his more controlled efforts of the season.  Jackson pitched exactly 100 pitches before J P Howeel came on to relieve him in the 6th inning.

Howell pitched 2 innings and threw 22 strike in 37 pitches for the Rays.  Howell is currently 2nd in the AL with 56.0 innings pitched in relief. He trails only .1 of an inning for the MLB lead. Washington’s Joel Hanrahan and the Twin;s Brian Bass are tied with 56.1 innings.




Carlos Pena continues on his home run tear. Pena hit his 14th homer of the season today to tie with Eric Hinske for 2nd on the Rays. It is also Pena’s 3rd homer in 6 games. Pena went 1-3 in the gamw to up his average to .233 for the year.




 During the last homestand, Pena was 7-26, with 2 homers, 2 doubles and 10 RBI’s. He is also in the middle of a 4 game hitting streak going 6-17 .




B J Upton was again caught stealing against the Yankees to end the 5th inning for the Rays. Upton is still the MLB leader in being caught stealing this season with 11. His closest competition is Carlos Gomez of the Twins.  Carl Crawford is currently 5th with 6 this year.

On the up side, B J is tied for first in Walks in the AL with 61. He also has 20 doubles on the year, and is 3rd in steals with 27 bases for the Rays. Crawford is right behind him in 5th with 23 steals. During the last three games, B J is 5-12 and is sitting on a .280 average for the team.


What is more disappointing to me is the fact that the Yankees started Sidney Ponson, who the Rays have dominated in the past. Ponson and Mariano Rivera each got 4 strikeouts against the Rays. The Rays currently have 654 strikeouts on the year to rank 8th in the league.


Grant Balfour has been great for so long we forget he was not with the club at the beginning of the season. He has been the ultimate run-stopper for the Rays this season, but Weds. afternoon was not his day.



In the 10th inning Grant began by getting Billy Gardener to strikeout. He then proceeded to walk Derek Jeter. With Bobby Abreu at the plate, Balfour got Abreu to two strike quick in the at-bat. But on the 5th pitch, Abreu hit a ball to deep center that scored Jeter from second and won the game for the Yankees.

Balfour, who took his first loss of the season, pitched 1 inning for the Rays.  It was only the 2nd extra base hit he has surrendered in 19.2 innings this year. 

 It also snapped a 9 straight scoreless appearance streak for Balfour. This was only the 2nd time in 15 games that he had been scored on by the opposition this year.  Oppoenents were hitting .123 against him this season.


Do not forget to cast your votes for Evan Longoria either on, or today and help get Evan into the last All-Star game at historical Yankee Stadium.   Voting ends on Thursday at 5 PM.

You can vote as many times as you like. There is no limit to this voting. vote 25 or 250 times to help Longoria get to the All-Star game.